Permanently Temporary

IMG_6261This is a picture of a gate that blocks Henry (our dog) from escaping from the yard. When we got Henry it was a process of figuring out the nooks and crannies that he could escape from. The obvious one was this stairwell. This gate was laying around the yard and I just leaned it up against the stairs. It was good enough for now, but it was just temporary. Eventually I would put hinges on it so we can open and close the gate without having to lift it or drag it. It’s been over a year and “eventually” hasn’t come. This gate might be permanently temporary.

Every time I see this gate I think, “Okay, I need to put those hinges on.” Then it makes me think of all the other projects and repairs I have to do around the house. If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Tomorrow I’ll get to it”….

This gate is not a pressing matter. It would be more convenient to have the hinges, but it still functions. There are things that are more pressing that are left for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother was all alone. Being from Japan, her English was minimal and she relied on my grandfather a lot. I visited her regularly during my breaks between classes. Eventually she had health issues and required dialysis treatments three times a week. She could no longer live alone. She lived with us at first, but the stairs were too much to handle. She moved around to different relatives’ homes, but eventually ended up in a care home. All alone with communication barriers, I needed to visit her soon. Too many times I said, “Tomorrow I’ll go.” She passed shortly after being in the home. I still think about that to this day.

In James chapter 4, God’s Word says, “13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and it’s actually arrogant to believe you will have a tomorrow. While somethings can be put off till tomorrow, others shouldn’t be taken for granted. Tomorrow may never come.

As a Christian our priority is a right relationship with God. Jesus holds our tomorrows. He calls to us daily and we tell the Author of tomorrow, “I’ll get to you later.”

We know what we should do. We know where our attention should go. God, our marriages, our families, our loved ones…how are we treating these areas of life? What are you putting off till tomorrow? We might say to ourselves, “this is just for now” and years later discover that our choices have become permanently temporary and tomorrow never arrived. -jason

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New Realities

This past week I started my new job. It was a tough couple of days, much harder than I expected.

It was a process of saying goodbye to co-workers and friends from my previous employment so it didn’t really hit me. I remember one of the last things I said before I left was, “It doesn’t feel like I’m leaving. I hope I don’t drive here next week on accident!”

I didn’t. I made the drive in the opposite direction. Kind of symbolic in a way. When I checked in at my new job, reality hit me. Reality caught me with a cheap shot right in the face. I don’t usually feel lonely, but I did that first day. Suddenly it was real, I won’t be back at the church I worked at for the last 4 1/2 years. This was my new reality. Honestly, it kind of sucked.

That day I got home and Emily’s friend was over. She worked with Emily a while ago, but had to leave the island and seek out treatment for cancer. Frequent and on going medical procedures, hair loss, lifestyle changes and permanent impacts on her life were her new reality. I’m certain the adjustment was tough, I just cannot imagine. Here she was, months later, pressing on, keeping a positive attitude in her new reality.

My father had part of his leg amputated when he was in his 20’s. Most people don’t even realize he has a prosthetic leg. Again, how does someone deal with that? How do you go on? He did. He got married, raised children, had a successful career, still went hunting and fishing regularly and accepted his new reality.

So many people are encountering new realities that take an adjustment. Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is as simple as switching jobs, other times it’s drastic, like physical impairments or loss of a loved one. We face the new reality, then we learn to move forward in it.

Have you faced changes recently? What’s your new reality?

The change and challenges may seem insurmountable, but do not lose heart. You will get adjusted to your new reality. Remember also, change is inevitable, so keep looking forward and be prepared for the next part of the journey.

The best path to take is the one that the Lord lays out ahead of you. There may be oppression, there may be deserts, there may be many challenges, but when you know the final plan, it’s all worth it. When you seek the Lord with all your heart each moment of life becomes the reality that leads to one glorious destination. No fault of man, no poor choice, no hurdle of life will keep you from the grace of God. (cf. Romans 8:38-39)

Embrace your new reality and discover the possibilities that lay ahead on the journey. I know for me I will get settled, find my place, and by the grace of God, bring Him glory in my work. Know also that you are not alone, not only does the Lord desire for you to call to Him, but I want to walk with you in the changes of life, the hurdles, and the challenges. In whatever way I can, I will support you in your new realities. -jason

Chew Before You Swallow

I’ve always been a fast eater. The problem with that is, I tend to not chew my food well before I swallow it. When my grandparents were alive my grandmother was convinced that what contributed to my grandfather getting cancer was because he didn’t chew his food well. A good friend from high school told me once that he actually chews his food 45 times before he swallows it! Amazing. 

Chewing your food properly is very important to your health. Chewing your food helps to produce saliva that has properties to help breakdown food and aid in digestion.

One of my pet peeves is when you are talking to someone and you know they are not listening. This is something I know I need to be aware of and something I am grateful for in my counseling training. Listening, and not just hearing, is the process in which we “chew” on what other people are saying. When we take in what people are saying before we chew on it, we don’t digest it well and it causes interrelational problems.

Chew the food that other people feed you, chew it well. Listen, really seek to breakdown what people are saying before you swallow. Avoid giving a quick answer. Avoid formulating your own answers before they are done speaking. Try to not be in a rush. Just like eating, when we rush, we don’t chew properly. This can cause much complications.

The better you chew on what is being told you, the better you can digest the communication between you and others. The better your digestion, the better the overall health of your body of relationships. Chew before you swallow. -jason

 

Let’s Make Pretend

While my kids play I overhear many things that are very interesting. One word that is repeated often in their play is “pretend”. As an example Aubrey will say, “Hey guys, pretend this is a castle and I am the princess and you are the sister and you are the cat.” (Yup, they often make Jonah be the cat or puppy.) Then Kamryn will chime in and say, “Yeah, but pretend this is a magic wand and I can make my own castle and I am the other princess.” Then Jonah will try to squeeze in his two cents with, “But, but, but pretend, guys, guys, pretend I’m a cat that can fly and I fly over your castles.” Then it goes on and on.

It’s great. I think the use of a child’s imagination is healthy exercise. Imagination that is allowed to be set free can open the doors for creativity and progressive thought. To compliment that development comes the ability to differentiate between real and pretend.

Seems to me that there is a level of pretend that happens with adults that is not so healthy. Often “let’s make pretend” leads to further issues and complications.

Our game of pretend is usually done in an effort to preserve a perception of positivity.  It manifests itself in friendships where we pretend that life is great. We pretend we are parents that have it together, we pretend to have more femininity or masculinity than we really do. We pretend to be more knowledgeable or more athletic or more wealthy than we really are. It can appear through social media and even in our face to face interactions. We don’t want to reveal struggles and hurts, we don’t want to let others know they have a leg up on us so we engage in “let’s make pretend” we have our lives together. Sure we moan and lament over our messy homes, but yet when people come over we make sure it’s pretty darn clean. I’m guilty of this myself. I scramble and clean, because I want guests to be comfortable, but then I say, “Sorry the house is so messy…” Why is that?

In the midst of conflict we like to play “let’s make pretend” everything is fine. Maybe we do it for ourselves, maybe we do it because we think it’s best for the group. I’ve come to realize it’s not best for anyone.

We do it in our families, in our marriages, in our friendships, in our workplace and sadly even in our churches.

The problem is, when we make pretend all is well when it is not, reality will have to collide with it at some point. While peace may be kept for the short term, you can be certain it will not last. Eventually play time will end and things will unravel. Imagination can be a wonderful thing when we can discern that from reality. Let’s stop making pretend at the expense of what is real. -jason

As Seen on TV

My kids probably watch too much TV. When Emily was pregnant with Aubrey we said they wouldn’t watch TV, that didn’t last long. We do try to limit it, but they probably watch 1 to 2 hours of TV per day at home.

One thing on TV that bothers me the most is infomercials. On the kids shows there are a tons of thing that they are selling. Magic Bubbles, Animal Pillows, glow in the dark toys, water play toys, and on and on. Ever thing my kids see they WANT IT. “OOH I want that!” “Can I get that for my birthday?”

I began thinking a lot about wants and needs. While we all have basic needs, even our needs have shifted to wants. We are a society of abundance. I have even had homeless people turn away food because they didn’t like a particular thing. We need food to survive, yet we survive off of what we want. We Yelp the best Thai restaurant in our area because we feel like eating Thai. We need shelter, but we dwell in the most extravagant places. The want of design and comfort overwhelms the simple need for shelter. We need water, but we want it to be a certain brand that is filtered in the Swiss Alps from melting snow.

In the church this is also true. We need Jesus, but most of us ebb and flow in and out of a relationship of need and want. Some even only know Jesus as a want.

So what happens when our needs turn into wants. We take it for granted. Toys get tossed under the bed or at the bottom of a pile, food and housing become large investments as they become disposable and easily replaced or cast out. Relationships are caught in conflict and torn apart. Worst of all, some will never truly know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, because you don’t just want the Savior, you need Him.

When you understand your need for Jesus, the Spirit transforms your life, radically. There is nothing more important than Jesus and you become fully dependent on Him. When you want Jesus, its on your terms and you put Him away when you no longer want him. When you need the Savior, you will turn to Him daily, throughout your day and constantly.

In all areas of life, we must consider our wants and our needs. If we live an “As Seen on TV” life, things become disposable and devalued. When we give careful thoughts to our needs we rediscover the things we treasure and we can separate them from the things that are excess. -jason

Good Soil

Emily has been inspired to have a raised bed garden. She went to the hardware store and  picked up the wood, some compost, some fertilizer and some seeds.

Yesterday, I put the garden box together and I prepared some of the soil from our yard for the garden. In preparing the soil, I dug up piles of it that was displaced in our construction, i sifted it through a screen box and threw out large rocks and weeds that were growing in it.

Shoveling dirt is not what I imagine my Saturdays being filled with, but hopefully it pays off. Preparing the soil to be mixed with the compost would be something that would provide the right minerals and nutrients to allow for the garden to grow. Having good soil will be a critical factor for seeds to grow.

How’s your soil?

Young and old, we are constantly having seeds planted in our lives. Some are weeds that seem to grow much easier, but need to be removed. Other seeds are life giving and they require good soil. Seeds will be planted in your life all the time from things we see on the television, conversations we have with co-workers and through many other things that we are exposed to.

Good soil contains the proper elements to give life to the seeds. Humility, goodness, patience and honesty are amongst the major components of good soil. We are life-long learners. There are always lessons. Once we think our garden is full, we miss out on so much.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”   Luke 8:15

May you sift through the good soil in your life and rejoice in the harvests to come. -jason

 

Good Deeds, Great Lesson

Last week a very close friend called me to meet up. He was in from California and wanted to share with me a financial company that he had been trying to establish himself in.

When I got to the little cafe he was sitting there with a business associate. This other gentleman was very nice and friendly. He was there to be the spokesperson for this financial program. My friend mostly sat back and listened.

During the presentation the gentleman mentioned building assets to pass on to the next generation. He said, “That’s our goal, building wealth that we can pass on to our kids.” I stopped him with a skeptical and screeching, “Weeeeelllll….” In recalling the story this is where my wife rolls her eyes.

I continue by reflecting on the dynamic of passing on wealth. Earlier we were talking about the fantasy world that people live in and how it seems to be growing with younger generations. I reflected on stories my parents told me and stories many of you have heard from your parents who were in that builder generation. Starting off as a young married couple, living in a small apartment, sleeping on a twin bed, eating sardines and rice for dinner. That generation gave blood sweat and tears to get where they are now. In turn, they wanted to build wealth for their kids so their kids wouldn’t have to go through what they went through. “Yet”, I pondered out loud, “how much of what they went to built the character of who they are now and what they have become?” Perhaps this is what feeds the unrealistic expectations of the next generation. I hear comments from the older generation toward the younger that they are too lazy. Shoot, I feel too lazy when I see what my parents do!

Eyes wide open because I am hijacking this presentation, the business associate says, “Yes, that is why we need to educate them.” I agreed wholeheartedly and added, “We need to teach them about Jesus and a Biblical understanding of money.” The wheels are spinning in his head, I can see it. “Well..”, he replies, ” sometime people pass on their wealth to their churches.” My eyes squinting in thought…I respond with a low, ‘Hmmm…about that….”

At this point he probably is wondering why in the world my friend set this meeting up.

I went on to question if there is a similar thing. I had been preparing for my sermon that Sunday and the scripture describe a comfortable church that was absent of the Holy Spirit. I shared way too much and way too passionately for a financial presentation, it just spewed out of me.

It was not my intention to hijack the meeting. He was a good guy and they were sharing a very significant product on a very important topic. It did make me think a lot about how well intended things like providing financial security for the next generation can have its detrimental effects.

It’s not a bad thing to provide financially for generations to come, its actually a very good thing. It’s also good to think about what impact that might have in the long run. What lessons and character traits are being overlooked when a good deed, results in unwelcome results? Never stop doing good and never stop helping others pursue greatness in themselves. -jason

Fleeting Beauty

Fleeting Beauty

Hopefully I can make the Koko Head morning hikes a regular thing. It was only my third time and it actually seemed harder. During one of my rests a man that was on his second round trip stopped and pointed out this flower to me.

I believe this is called the Hylocereus undatus. It’s a flower that blooms from a cactus plant, the same plant that produce dragonfruit. It is said that this cactus was first planted in Hawaii in the mid 1800’s by a member of the Bingham family on the walls that surround Punahou school. For this reason, some know this plant in Hawaii as “Panini o kapunahou”. This plant can now be found in different parts of Oahu and some of the other islands. The unique thing about this flower is it’s lifespan. This flower only blooms at night and drops off by midday and dies. It’s a beautiful flower that lets off a wonderful fragrance. In the dark, I wouldn’t have even noticed it had it not been pointed out to me. I’m so glad I was able to see it.

When we look at scripture there is a frequent warning about beauty. Beauty is never a bad thing, not at all. Yet there is danger in beauty becoming the focus of our lives. Too often this is something that plagues women more than men, although it’s more apparent for both these days. The expectation of a society to what is beautiful places unnecessary stress on young women. This is a timeless issue going back to Biblical times. In Proverbs 31:29-31 the scripture says, 

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

This scripture clarifies that many women have done well, excellently even, but there is one that surpasses, the one who fears the Lord. In some translations it says that beauty is fleeting. It doesn’t last. Charm is often an external expression of people pleasing and platitudes that do not genuinely reflect the true heart. When we center our lives on things that are temporary, our pursuits are in vain. Be cautious of being distracted by that which attracts in the night and in the darkness only to fade away in the light. Focus on what is eternal. And what is that? What is everlasting?

Enjoy beauty all around you. It is from the Lord. Don’t miss that which blooms in the night, don’t let fleeting beauty pass you by, for these things are from the Lord. As you recognize beauty, as you enjoy the charming and beautiful things around you, look to the Light, the Creator of all that is beautiful, the everlasting and eternal God of all. In Him is our true praise. In Him we find true beauty. -jason

*For a broader study on vanity in life, read through Ecclesiastes.

 

 

CAGED

CAGED

When I helped chaperone Kammy’s field trip to the zoo I was reminded of some of my feelings about the zoo. I remember visiting the zoo in San Francisco thinking, “We humans are pretty arrogant that we think capture animals and stick them in cages for our entertainment.” Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the zoo. In situations that animals cannot fend in the wild, I am glad there are zoos that will take them in and care for them.

As I walked around the zoo I noticed the construction in certain areas and the recent renovations of some. Rusty and Violet are on my kids favorites list. Last week we were not able to see them, but they have a nice set up, hammocks, regular feedings, toys, and any comforts they could ask for. Some of the other exhibits have similar luxuries that I imagine are not afforded for in the wild.

I imagined other animals in the wild that have to find their own food and may not have a regular shelter over their heads. I thought about how good some of these animals in the zoo have it. Then I remembered once again, they are captive. They may have many things, but freedom is not one of them.

Living in Hawaii is tough financially. People figure out how to make it work, but many struggle. Sometimes the struggle is just the reality of an individuals life, other times financial hardships and debt come out of choices, and often choices of luxury. We see on our social media that our friends have a nice house, or got the latest car, they dine at the new trendy restaurants and have the privilege of many other luxuries in life. Some can genuinely afford it, others may be living beyond their means.

Our financial struggles become a prison, whether it is debt, overtime hours, the second job, or perhaps even illegal pursuits. We enjoy the luxuries of life within the confines of our walls of debt and financial hardship. Perhaps the walls even look like stress, health issues, broken marriages, or many other manifestations of the consequence of living beyond your means. With all the indulgences of life, are you free? For some, the answer is “yes”. That’s a wonderful blessing! For others, you might assess and realize that there is a sheet of glass between your luxuries and freedom. -jason

 

 

Excess Ability

Excess Ability

Every last Saturday of the month Olivet Baptist Church operates a Food Pantry. Over a hundred people come to our campus to collect a bag of food that has been purchased from the Food Bank or donated from members and other supporters of the Food Pantry Ministry.

One donation that arrives every month comes from a member of another church who collects baked goods from a local grocer. These baked goods are near expiration or even a little past the expiration date. The amount varies, but there are often several boxes that we give out. There are rolls, baguettes, cupcakes, cookies, and many other baked goods.

On one hand, it is wonderful that we are able to pass out the excess items that are only going to be thrown out. We all have excess. That’s the reality. If you are reading this on your computer or smart phone or tablet, chances are, you have excess and you have the ability to give out of that excess. No matter how poor you might think you are, there’s a chance there is excess that you can afford to give. No matter how buys you are, there’s a chance there is excess time to give. No matter how exhausted you are, there’s a chance you have excess energy to give. If we look well, we have the ability to give out of our excess.

On the other hand, I think about what we are giving. Every nutritional health person I talk to seem to agree on a few items that we should avoid or limit in our diet. Sugar, flour, salt are often always in the top five lists. These baked goods contain all of those. So we give out of our excess, but it’s leftover, it’s old, it’s not the best quality, and we are going to throw it out anyway. Is that what we offer people? Are we giving them our resources, our time, our energy that we are planning to throw out anyway? The leftovers?

In scripture when God desires the first fruits I don’t think it’s because He desires quality products, but I believe He desires quality hearts. 1 Corinthians 15:20 identifies Jesus as the “first fruit” of the dead. God had to come in the form of man to be offered up in death so that as the only one without sin He might be raised back into life so those who follow Him may also find life after death. We then become a first fruit of mankind because of Christ.

It’s the quality of what we offer. Even in excess, what are we giving? We have resources, time and energy to offer. Where are you expending that? Once we have prioritized, we still find we have the ability to give the excess. To whom will you give the excess? Who in your life has the greatest needs? -jason